Second Job Surge

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Are employers facing up to the second job surge?

Financial pressures are increasingly pushing employees into second jobs. Susie Thomson, looks at the growing trend and how it should be handled by employers.

Partly driven by the cost-of-living crisis, employers are coming up against a growing business challenge that also presents them with a tricky moral dilemma. And it’s an issue that’s off many HR directors’ radars.

Hints of an emerging trend surfaced late last year when a survey of 1,000 UK workers* found a third (34%) had looked for a second job to combat the impact of rising prices on their lifestyle, while 15% were planning to do so. A Royal London survey of 4,000 UK adults backed up these findings revealing that 5.2 million workers had taken second jobs, with 10 million considering following suit.

Fast forward to late May 2023, and new research by Deloitte has proven the trend is continuing – and on a global scale. The survey of 14,483 Gen Zs and 8,373 Millennials spanning 44 countries found almost half (46%) of the former have either a full or part-time job in addition to a main one, compared to more than a third (37%) of the latter.

Why worry?

The prospect of employees having second jobs has always been around, but never seen as a major problem, just something to be aware of. Unsurprisingly, there has been a heightened interest in this area recently, but it has been surprising how many employers have not considered the situation or properly prepared for it.

Especially when you consider that the trend is not limited to cost-of-living hikes, but appears to be growing in popularity as working models evolve. Particularly among new generations emerging into the workplace and those in the twilight career stages, many of whom are actively seeking multiple concurrent employments.

Most employment contracts will have a clause requesting to be informed of any work being carried out for another employer during the employment period, working on an implicit trust basis. Some employers stipulate this as a requirement, which means they are in a stronger position to take action should a second job come to light that they are not aware of.

More importantly, however, is the reason behind an employee taking on a second job. In general, this is because they want or need more money, with the latter being the main driver. Right now, all the statistics suggest this second job surge is due to employees not being able to make ends meet. The current global economic situation means then are struggling to support themselves, and, in many cases, also their families.

Key questions

This creates a moral dilemma for employers. They understand the financial distress their employee is going through, but to allow them to have another job comes with several risks that need to be seriously considered:

Who are they working for?

If it’s a competitor, there’s a danger that sensitive business information could be shared. This could put the employer’s business at risk, which of course can directly affect the livelihoods of other employees. In extreme cases, a business might pay the employee of a rival, which they are also employing to participate in industrial espionage.

When are they working?

If it’s during the time they are contracted to work for their main employer, then this will directly affect their productivity, and may also put pressure on other employees to cover for them. Again, the business will suffer.

What hours are they working?

UK legislation states people should work no more than 48 hours in a week for wellbeing reasons. Employees racking up the hours in a second job are likely to be fatigued when at their main place or work. This not only affects performance, but in certain circumstances can endanger themselves and their fellow employees due to the increased risk of an accident.

Coming clean

A key priority, of course, should be the wellbeing of the employee. If they are taking on a second job for financial reasons, once their employer is aware of the situation, the first port of call should be to find out how they can help. This could ensure retaining a valuable member of staff, drive future loyalty and trust, and show the caring side of the business to the wider workforce.

The problem is that few employees will freely admit to having second jobs for fear of being discipline and dismissed, which of course would worsen their financial situation. This is especially the case if there is a clause in their contract stipulating that they must come clean. So, what can employers do?

The good news is that digital technology is on hand to help. New tools are now available that can instantly, via open banking, access employees’ bank accounts and payroll data to extract the names of additional employers and dates of employment. Employers looking to use these tools request a candidate or employee’s consent to do so when necessary. Such a conversation can itself prompt a candidate or employee to open-up about any second or third jobs they may have or want to take on.

Once that information is on the table, everyone knows where they stand, and individual agreements can be put in place where necessary. This could, of course, include a short-term financial support package to ease the financial pressure on an employee. As usual transparency is everything and can play a key role in businesses and their staff successfully negotiating the current second-job surge and the wider cost-of-living crisis.

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